Thursday, March 01, 2018

Short Posts 3/1/18: On Authoritarianism, Elections, Anti-Semitism, And Pay Differentials Between Men And Women

1.  Authoritarianism is the new-old fashion in politics:

The surprise disclosure on Sunday that the Communist Party was abolishing constitutional limits on presidential terms — effectively allowing President Xi Jinping to lead China indefinitely — was the latest and arguably most significant sign of the world’s decisive tilt toward authoritarian governance, often built on the highly personalized exercise of power.
The list includes Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, all of whom have abandoned most pretenses that they rule according to the people’s will. Authoritarianism is also reappearing in places like Hungary and Poland that barely a quarter-century ago shook loose the shackles of Soviet oppression.
There are many reasons for such moves by Mr. Xi and others — including protecting their power and perks in an age of unrest, terrorism and war amplified by new technologies — but a significant one is that few countries have the standing or authority, morally or otherwise, to speak out — least of all, critics say, the United States.

Warlords everywhere.  And the current president of the United States no longer supports those universal human values Eleanor Roosevelt helped to create in 1948.  He wants to be the Greatest, Biggest Warlord ever.  With the prettiest ponies.

This is not quite as depressing as it sounds, because it's possible to fight the disease once it is diagnosed.  The alternative is to take the lead of the Taoist thinkers and spend the rest of our lives watching fishes make circles on water or goddessing.

2.  Because the rise in authoritarianism means a decline in democracy, fighting for democracy everywhere is imperative.  In the United States this includes paying a liiitle bit of attention to fair and transparent elections:

Nearly 16 months after the presidential election, and more than eight months before the critical midterms, many state and federal officials are convinced the Russians will be back. They're concerned that 2016 was laying the groundwork for a possible future attack.
These first two dismal points highlight the importance of wresting the control of the government away from those who don't like democracy.  We can do it!

3.  Louis Farrakhan has re-emerged.  He gave a very long speech, available on YouTube, and in it he still expressed his great hatred of the Jewish people*. 

It's not just the far right which today expresses anti-Semitism, in other words.  We should condemn such statements wherever they come from, just as we should condemn sexism and racism, say,  even when they are expressed by demographic groups otherwise severely oppressed, and just as we should criticize all religions for their possible misogyny, not just, say, American fundamentalist sects. 

4.  The Brits are talking about the gender wage gap because now information on the gap inside large firms is available.   While the reasons for the gap in earnings between men and women are many, lack of information about what others earn certainly makes it hard to do anything about the gap.  A culture of silence about earnings benefits the firms who can continue paying some groups less.

So finding that the guy in the next cubicle makes a lot more even though he has a lot less experience and education can, indeed, be rage-inducing, as the article states.

I found the differences in bonus payments especially interesting.  How are bonuses determined?  Are the grounds subjective or objective?  Does an employee have to negotiate for a bonus, specifically?  And if so, how does that work out for women when we know from studies that negotiating might backfire for them?

5.  After scanning through my post I depress myself!  My apologies for that.  I have edamame beans.  What is the best way of eating them?


*  He also expressed religious reservations about LGBT rights, suggested that someone is altering marijuana to make men of African ancestry "soft," and gave a nod to one of the founders of the Women's Marches (who was present at the speech), while also telling women to cook healthier meals for their husbands so that obesity is avoided.  

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Creation Of Fake News on the Parkland Slaughter

The Washington Post tells a story about how conspiracies and fake news are hatched* on such sites as 4chan and 8chan and Reddit and how the lies then take their first flights via YouTube and Facebook.  The specifics of that story are about the most recent school killing.

If you have read Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, you know how such fake news are feathered to look credible:

Bored with their work, three Milanese editors cook up "the Plan," a hoax that connects the medieval Knights Templar with other occult groups from ancient to modern times. This produces a map indicating the geographical point from which all the powers of the earth can be controlled―a point located in Paris, France, at Foucault’s Pendulum. But in a fateful turn the joke becomes all too real, and when occult groups, including Satanists, get wind of the Plan, they go so far as to kill one of the editors in their quest to gain control of the earth.

Well, credible to those who are not good at judging evidence, or who prefer the conclusions over the road that got them there.

Given that I used one literary reference on fake news, here's another I spotted yesterday while re-reading** Hilary Mantel's books about Thomas Cromwell.  It's from Bring Up The Bodies:

What is the nature of the border between truth and lies?  It is permeable and blurred because it is planted thick with rumour, confabulation, misunderstandings and twisted tales.  Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to whimpering at the back door.
The beauty of the truth naturally depends on what one desires truth to be...

* I seem to insist on using the bird simile  here for fake news.  To continue with it, the eggs are laid by either gun fanatics/white nationalists/racists/misogynists/etc.  and/or by a group of alienated and bored teenage boys.  The latter group just wants to blow up the world of us "normies."  Well, the world of you " normies," given that I'm a goddess which is not normal.

** Her style is elegant and worth studying, but I am particularly awed by her use of the voice, the way the point of attention shifts and returns.

Monday, February 26, 2018

And Sixty Million Plus American Voters Thought This Guy Would Be An Adequate President...

President Trump

on Monday claimed he would have run into a Florida high school to prevent a gunman from carrying out this month's mass shooting.
"You don't know until you test it, but I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon,” Trump told a gathering of governors at the White House. "And I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too."

It's always about Him, the adulation of Him, the intelligence of Him, the great courage of Him.

Take a second to consider how the media would have reported a similar boast from, say, president Hillary Clinton!  But at least we don't have to suffer through e-mail scandals (largely, because those scandals are not viewed as scandals when done by the Trump administration) or have a crooked woman running the country.

The normalization of the Trump values proceeds, however much some of us want to fight back.

On the topic of that quote:  None of us know how we would act in a dire emergency, until we find ourselves in one.  Practice and training help, but even those who have trained and practiced may find themselves freezing when things turn real.  And yes, there are heroes and heroines*, people who sacrifice themselves for a greater chance of rescue for others. 

But running into the building (how would Trump run?) without a weapon would have been utterly useless, and speculating about that while completely safe is disrespectful to those who were actually there.

Why write about Trump's inane comments (while bad stuff takes place behind the curtain)?  Perhaps I should not have done so.  But I still can't get over the responsibility Trump voters have for our current miseries.  It's not ultimately Trump that is the problem (the country can absorb quite a few carnival barkers), it's Trump in the White House that is the problem.


*  I have heard a story from  another country where the head mistress at a school shooting offered her own life in exchange for the lives of the threatened youngsters.  The shooter took hers, and perhaps one or two of the others were saved by her sacrifice, given that someone could pass on the story.